There are few things that irritate me more than non-recyclable plastics. On a daily basis, I seem to be reminded of how wasteful we are as a society. Just by opening the dustbin, at work and at home, my heart sinks to see copious amounts of single-use plastic and unnecessary packaging, particularly from food. This linear lifestyle of take (raw materials), make (product), dispose (to landfill or similar), by definition, is unsustainable. We are using finite resources to create items with a very short life-span, which often can’t be recycled, so spend almost an eternity in a landfill, or worse, in nature or the oceans.
Yes, we can make conscious decisions not to buy food or products packaged in non-biodegradable plastics, but why should we have to? Surely, in the 21st century, this is a problem we can solve, although first, we have to realise and accept that it is, indeed, a problem. In the wake of documentaries such as Blue Planet 2, more people are becoming more aware. Initiatives such as the Circular Economy – which aims to develop a restorative and regenerative economy – are gaining traction. The Dutch organic retailer, Ekoplaza, recently committed to a plastic-free aisle in all of its stores by the end of the year, while the supermarket Iceland in the UK, has committed to removing plastic packaging from its own-brand products by 2023. This is great and demonstrates what can be done, but is it enough? Even the use of recyclable packaging is probably not the answer, as it is of low value and easily contaminated. According to A Plastic Planet, only 9% of the 6.9 billion tonnes of plastic that has been produced since the 1950s has been recycled!
Compostable packaging seems like a good solution; once its job is done, it can be composted and potentially used to grow new crops, thus closing the metaphorical loop. Some might argue that this type of packaging will cost more than traditional plastics, but consider what the true cost is for something that takes 500 years to decompose.